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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Matthew Dawkins on the future of Vampire: The Masquerade

What can be said about Matthew Dawkins that hasn’t been said before?  Matthew Dawkins, otherwise known as the Gentleman Gamer, is a freelance writer and in-house developer for Onyx Path Publishing.  His credits are phenomenal and include pretty much every branch of the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness.

From the excellent Beckett’s Jyhad Diary through to the Dark Ages Companion for Vampire: The Masquerade 20th anniversary edition (V20), anyone with even a passing interest in the World of Darkness will have read some of Dawkins’s work. His most recent work has been on Vampire the Masquerade 5th edition (V5), which was released last year (reviewed here) and he is currently working on the eagerly anticipated V5 edition of Chicago by Night.

Whilst the initial release of the V5 core rulebook was critically and commercially successful, the subsequent release of the Camarilla and Anarch sourcebooks was beset by controversy.  Sales of these books were temporarily suspended and White Wolf was absorbed by its parent company Paradox Interactive.

I met Matthew Dawkins on the Onyx Path Publishing stand at the UK Games Expo last weekend.  With Matthew taking a break for one of his many meetings that weekend, I took advantage to interview him about the changes to V5 since we had last spoken and what the future holds for Vampire: The Masquerade.

Following Paradox’s absorption of White Wolf, what is happening with V5?

Onyx Path are still a licensing partner and we are still producing V5 books.  Modiphius is also a licensing partner and they are also producing V5 books.  There are also at least three games, that I am aware of, coming out.  There is Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage, which I have written missions for, there is Vampire: The Masquerade – Chapters, which I am consulting on, and there is another one called Vampire: The Masquerade – Blood Feud that is coming up soon.  So, Vampire is still going strong.

The big change is that it isn’t being created in-house by White Wolf and Paradox, who are now one and the same at this point.  They are certainly still maintaining oversight on the broader brand to ensure consistency, but they are not going to be producing books anymore.  It was never their intention to be a publisher full-time.  They just wanted to be the people who got the core material out there, set the bible down and let partners develop the world.

Why has there been a massive uptake of Vampire: The Masquerade recently?

It cannot be undersold how V20 kept the core fanbase ticking along.  With Beckett’s Jyhad Diary, the popularity of it surprised even us at Onyx Path.  Whenever books do surprisingly well, such as Lore of the Bloodlines, this shows us that an invested fanbase wanted more.

With V5 coming out, and, frankly, the amount of money Paradox were putting behind its launch, has resulted in a big relaunch of Vampire.

There is a misnomer in people’s minds that Vampire: The Masquerade’s revised edition, or 3rd edition as it is known now, was a rip-roaring success.  The reason that Vampire: The Requiem came into being was because Vampire: The Masquerade’s sales were dwindling.  V20 uplifted that and in a very effective way.

With V5, and having worked with Modiphius I can speak with veracity on this, it has been quite surprising to us at how popular the book has been.  We have even had wargame stores ordering Vampire: The Masquerade, and they do not even order Dungeons & Dragons.  V5 is international.

There was an unfortunate reaction to some of the content in the V5 books

I wrote up the clans in V5, and suggested that some of the Brujah might come from right-wing camps.  Was than an invitation to play alt-right Brujah?  Absolutely not.  If someone wanted to play a Nazi at my table, I would ask them to write a new character or leave, as I have no interest in running a game for anyone playing a Nazi.  It is just not fun in my mind.

I believe in the World of Darkness, which is our world but darker, that far-right elements exist.  Would the Brujah – a clan of impassioned philosophers and politicos – embrace right-wing humans? Yes.  Is that nice? No.  Do you have to play them? Definitely not.  Can they be antagonists? Absolutely.  Any excuse to beat up a Nazi in a roleplaying game is perfectly fine.

There are some things you can attempt to justify, there are somethings you can only apologise for, and there are somethings that you have to replace because they are poor.  Whilst I think there have been mistakes, with people being too slow to act, and that sometimes they have been too reactionary.  It is a fine line to tread, especially when you are a young company like White Wolf were.

That is not making an excuse for them, because they definitely had lessons to learn.  They didn’t act perfectly at all times, but that is partly why Paradox Interactive are now saying “We’ve done our bit, this has been our plan all along”, and I think they can do that without any regrets.

One of the things that Onyx Path does really well is communication.  Why does Onyx Path make such a point of being transparent?

We think it is very useful that our customers know what we are doing.  We release something new every Wednesday without fail, even if it is something small like a t-shirt.  It is just simply keeping our customers updated.

Another reason is that it’s pragmatic.  We know that our books are not available in store.  Scion will be our first game available in retail stores.  It is our first game we are properly pushing in that way, but we know that people need to be reminded of our existence.

So, staying ever present online, whether it is through the Onyx Pathcast, our YouTube channel, or our blog, is just a really good way of keeping up in people’s minds and pointing them to where they can buy our products.

What has happened to the Ravnos clan and will they be playable in V5?

There is, providing it has been accepted following oversight from Modiphius, a Ravnos coming up in the Chicago Folio, which are essentially chronicle hooks.  So, the clan is still around.  I am saying this now, as we obviously have our work subject to approval, but I have a book pitched that would cover the Ravnos and Salubri as well as the other outcast clans.  Will that be accepted?  It might be or it might need more definition than it currently has.

I am a big fan of all the original clans.  A lot of them have problems that are ingrained in their original creation, and were reinforced in the second edition of Vampire, sometimes to a horrible degree.  Revised and V20 went a long way to making the independent clans a lot more three dimensional and I see no reason the Ravnos shouldn’t reappear in V5.  I just think they need to be handled and written well.

What can we expect of V5 in the future?

Modiphius have announced a Second Inquisition book in the future.  We have also got Chicago By Night, which should be out in the next few months, as all the art is now in.  We have also got the Chicago Folios.  We have Let The Streets Run Red, which is a big chronicles book and Cults of the Blood Gods, which I am developing right now.  Modiphius have got The Fall of London, which I was a developer on, and they have got the V5 Players Guide.

There are lots of V5 books and other products, so there is certainly no reason to worry or believe the line is dead or severely damaged in the problems that have been on the way.

Whilst definitely regrettable, and lessons have been learned, the mistake a lot of people have made are people saying that lines removed from a book is censorship.  The company’s only concern is quality control and that may be a fine line, but if we – as the company – do not believe that line is good enough to go out to the market and we have it called to our attention after the fact, then it is upon us to do what we can to make the book better.  Which is why, in some cases, such as with Modiphius, they have been removing some text from the Camarilla book and inserting new text that is more playable.  You do not keep content in a book that is of sub-par quality.

Matthew Dawkins, thank you very much.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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